Hosea, prophet of mercy—Chapter 4: Lo-ruhamah
Nov 18, 2016
Hosea’s second child was a daughter. We read in Hosea 1:6, 7,
6 Then she conceived again and gave birth to a daughter. And the Lord said to him, “Name her Lo-ruhamah, for I will no longer have compassion on the house of Israel, that I should ever forgive them.”
The name, Lo-ruhamah, is a compound Hebrew word. Lo means “no, not.” Ruhamah is from racham (“mercy”) with a feminine ending (ah). The name is translated usually in one of three ways. The most common translations read no mercy, no compassion, or not pitied.
Throughout the book of Hosea, there are two Hebrew words that the prophet uses to describe God’s emotions toward Gomer-Israel: hesed and racham. The word hesed is usually translated “lovingkindness,” and it refers to God’s eager desire to show mercy, coming from the will of His Spirit. The word racham expresses the compassion of God, an emotion coming from His Soul.
The marriage of God and Israel are like the marriage of Hosea and Gomer. It was an Old Covenant marriage, where Israel vowed obedience to her Husband. Hence, God has the right to be obeyed by His wife, but she refused to submit to His authority. Things got so bad that He finally divorced her, declaring that “she is not my wife, and I am not her husband” (Hosea 2:2).
Yet the hesed of God—His eager desire to show mercy—drives Him to seek her out and redeem her from a life of sin that has enslaved her both outwardly and inwardly. So He promises to betroth her again “in lovingkindness and in compassion” (Hosea 2:19), that is, in hesed and in racham. The prophet always uses racham as a prophecy of Lo-ruhamah’s future, when she is given a new name that reverses her condition under the New Covenant.
From No Mercy to Mercy
There is no mercy without judgment, even as there is no grace without sin. Mercy cannot be granted to those who are not judged, nor can grace be shown to sinless people. Mercy and grace imply a need, an imperfection, a disability, or a sin being judged. Mercy and grace are byproducts of a God of Love. Paul says in Romans 11:32, 33,
32 For God has shut up all in disobedience that He might show mercy to all. 33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!
God’s judgments are incomprehensible, not because they never end, but because they end in mercy. Though God is love, nowhere do we read that man is love. The natural man, then, cannot comprehend the judgments of God, because mercy is not inherent in his nature.
The NASB renders the last part of Hosea 1:6, “I will no longer have compassion on the house of Israel, that I should ever forgive them.” This is a glaring translation error, because it says God will never forgive Israel. But the whole point of the book is to show that God does indeed forgive. He restores Israel, and while she is in the wilderness, He betroths her to Himself in righteousness (Hosea 2:19). It would make no sense to say that God takes her back without forgiveness.
The KJV reads, “I will utterly take them away.” The Hebrew word translated “take away” is nasa, “to lift.” Apparently, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was named with this acronym to suggest “lift off” of space vehicles.
Dr. Bullinger’s notes comment on this verse, saying,
“take them away. Supply the ellipsis, ‘take away [the kingdom which belongs] to them.”
In other words, Hosea was saying that the kingdom would be taken away (lifted) from Israel as long as she was called Lo-ruhamah. But this verse was not speaking of the kingdom. The focus was upon the name of his daughter. I believe it more accurate to say that the name Israel was to be lifted from her. Certainly, Israel lost her kingdom when Assyria conquered her and deported the people to Assyria. However, it was the loss of her name that hid her among the nations, and this is how Israel became known as “the lost tribes.”
The Assyrians had called Israel by the name of Omri (Ghomri, or Gomer) prior to the captivity, and when the captive Israelites were resettled near the Caspian Sea, they were called the Gimirri. The place where they settled came to be known as Gamir and Gamera in the Assyrian records discovered in Nineveh in the year 1900 and published in 1930. Because the Israelites no longer kept their own official records, they became known by names that other nations called them. This was how God “lifted” from them the name of Israel. He did this because the people no longer bore the testimony that God rules. God’s rule had ended when Jeroboam set up the golden calves.
But, as we will see later, Lo-ruhamah was to become Ruhamah at the end of her captivity. These “lost tribes,” along with many others, were to be regathered under “one leader,” Jesus Christ, through a New Covenant. They were not to return to the old land, for that would be too restrictive. In 2 Samuel 7:10, God revealed to King David at the height of his kingdom:
10 I will appoint a place for My people Israel and will plant them, that they may live in their own place and not be disturbed again, nor will the wicked afflict them any more as formerly.
In other words, God had a new place for those physical ex-Israelites to live, one that could accommodate their increase in numbers. Ultimately, this new “land” is the “better country” that Abraham sought (Hebrews 11:16). It is not an earthly country, but “a heavenly one.” It is a spiritual place, a “city” called “New Jerusalem.” To gain access to this country and city, one must go through the Door that is Christ. All men have equal access to this door. One does not have to be an ethnic Israelite to live in this country.
Hence, that which Hosea prophesies about Lo-ruhamah and Ruhamah is in the context of Israel, but it has application to the entire world, because the New Covenant affects everyone.
Hosea 1:7 says,
7 But I will have compassion on the house of Judah and deliver them by the Lord their God, and will not deliver them by bow, sword, battle, horses, or horsemen.”
We know from biblical history that when the Assyrians conquered Samaria and deported the Israelites, they failed to conquer Judah. 2 Kings 17:18 says,
18 So the Lord was very angry with Israel, and removed them from His sight; none was left except the tribe of Judah.
Again, we read in 2 Kings 17:22, 23,
22 And the sons of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they did not depart from them, 23 until the Lord removed Israel from His sight, as He spoke through all His servants the prophets. So Israel was carried away into exile from their own land to Assyria until this day.
The term “until this day” refers to the time of Ezra, who compiled the Old Testament canon after the Babylonian captivity of Judah. There are some who teach that the Israelites returned to the old land with Judah, attempting to show that the Jews today include Israel. But Ezra says that the Israelites were exiled in Assyria “until this day,” that is, until the time Ezra himself.
The Assyrians conquered the entire land of Judah and took the people captive—except for the city of Jerusalem and any refugees that had fled there. 2 Kings 18:13 says,
13 Now in the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and seized them.
The story of Assyria’s failure is recorded in 2 Kings 19:35, 36, 37, when God killed 185,000 Assyrian troops outside of Jerusalem. The Assyrian records bear witness to this, as Professor E. Raymond Capt tells us:
“Sennacharib’s own account of this episode, recorded on the Taylor Prism, presents a very different picture. The language is boastful, referring to Hezekiah ‘Like a caged bird… shut up in Jerusalem, his royal city.’ (An analogy for his being unable to capture Jerusalem.) It also describes Sennacherib’s capture of ‘forty-six strong walled cities’ and the taking of many prisoners and much spoil: ‘Two hundred thousand, one hundred and fifty people, great and small, male and female, horses, mules, asses, camels, cattle and sheep without number.’ In addition, Sennacharib records annual tributes he claims he was able to exact from Hezekiah.” (Missing Links Discovered in Assyrian Tablets, pp. 76, 77)
We learn from this that many (or most) of the Judahites were deported to Assyria along with their brethren of the Israelite tribes. Over time, they too lost their identity as Jews or Israelites, for the ancient historians call them by other names.
It is important to note, however, that the Judahites who were taken to Assyria did not constitute the tribe itself. The tribal unit was located wherever the king of Judah lived. King Hezekiah and those who remained with him constituted the tribe of Judah and the House of Judah as a nation (including Benjamin and Levi). So even if the majority of the people of Judah were taken to Assyria, it was not the tribe that was taken, but only individual people. That is why Scripture tells us that “none was left except the tribe of Judah” (2 Kings 17:18). The tribe was greatly reduced after Sennacherib deported most of the Judahites, but the tribe itself, led by King Hezekiah, remained in Jerusalem.
Likewise, when Hosea 1:7 tells us that God would deliver Judah from an Assyrian captivity, he did not mean that every individual Judahite would be delivered. More than 100,000 Judahites were deported to Assyria, according to the Assyrian records. Rather, he meant that the tribe of Judah would remain as a political entity in the old land. Hosea’s prophecy thus was fulfilled a century later.
The Assyrians took the Israelites to a place north of Nineveh, near the Caspian Sea. More than a century later, the Babylonians revolted and conquered Nineveh in 612 B.C. They then continued their conquests until they had conquered Jerusalem in the days of Jeremiah. The Judahites (“Jews”) were taken to Babylon, which was far to the south of Nineveh.
This is part 5 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Hosea." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones